A major deficiency of American life today is citizen reluctance to take stands for the common good. Still, certain individuals do step forward to help others. This made-for-television movie tells the inspiring true story of Lois Gibbs, a shy but principled middle-class housewife who led a crusade to force the government to relocate families threatened by toxic chemical pollution in the Love Canal area of Niagara Falls in the late 1970s. Emmy Award-winning director Glenn Jordan is at the helm of this engaging drama from a screenplay by Michael Zagor.
This television production is a vivid portrait of a modern day hero. It presents a wealth of information on the national problem of toxic wastes. It is an ideal vehicle for group discussion and should be used by schools, community centers, colleges, churches and synagogues as a prelude to further study of whistle-blowing and citizen activism.
In 1978, Lois Gibbs (Marsha Mason) reads a newspaper article and learns that the elementary school her sickly son attends was built on a chemical dumpsite. The land was sold for $1.00 in 1953 to the Board of Education by the Hooker Chemical Company along with a document absolving the corporation of all further responsibility. A biologist, Pat Kindsman (Louise Latham), tells Lois about the health hazards of chemical wastes.
The concerned mother conducts a survey of the neighborhood while gathering signatures for a petition to close the school. She finds evidence of widespread nerve and respiratory problems, liver and kidney disorders, and cancers among the people of Love Canal (the three-block dumpsite).
Then the New York State Health Department, after investigating the area, admits the health hazards and decides to have the state close the school and relocate the 239 families closest to the dump. Lois Gibb is appointed president of the Love Canal Homeowner's Association. She begins a battle to have the remaining 710 families relocated and compensated for the loss of their homes.
In 1979, further studies of the area reveal the residents' worst fears and Lois Gibbs' contention that the poisons of Love Canal have been spread beyond the "first circle" of contamination. The remaining families are temporarily placed in motels while further tests are conducted to determine if they will ever be able to live in their homes. The final blow comes when Love Canal residents are told that the chemical wastes may be causing genetic damage. In October of 1980, President Carter caves in to the demand of Lois Gibbs and her neighbors federal disaster funds are allocated so that they can relocate.